Posted on October 20, 2020

Remember the Forgotten Man?

Jason De Sena Trennert, Wall Street Journal, October 18, 2020

After the initial shock of Donald Trump’s 2016 victory wore off, a few thoughtful people across the ideological spectrum attempted to wrap their heads around what happened. How did a brash, sometimes crude political neophyte beat everyone from Jeb Bush to Hillary Clinton at their own game on the world’s largest stage? Those more prone to introspection and self-awareness than denial and vindictiveness came to the conclusion that the country’s political and media elites had forgotten about the plight of the “average” American—the so-called Forgotten Man.

The term, first coined by Yale social scientist William Graham Sumner (1840-1910), was used to describe the American who, too poor to have political influence and too rich to be considered worthy of a helping hand, was often taken for granted by the political classes. As Sumner so aptly noted, “he works, he votes, generally he prays—but he always pays.”

There was a post-2016 awakening among those who realized they had ignored a big part of the country—the one that lives far from the corridors of power and the bright lights of cable television studios. {snip}

The costs of trade and immigration policies that favored big business were most often felt by the working class in “flyover country.” These policy changes came at a pace so rapid that people had little chance to adapt. Those same families sent their sons and daughters to fight in far off wars with few obvious connections to the national interest.

Those who complained were either ignored or deemed xenophobic racists and “deplorables.” How dare they question the collective wisdom of highly educated experts? Never mind that those experts bore almost no consequences for the disastrous effects of their policies. {snip}


Four years later we are in the midst of a global pandemic that has reordered society again to the detriment of the little guy. Small businesses and their employees must follow the diktats of state and local governments without any assurances about their economic future. Those who can’t work from home see the pandemic as far more than an inconvenience. Debates over trade and immigration have been sidelined in favor of debates over lockdowns and masks, yet Democrats and Republicans alike are finally starting to realize that China was never the good-faith economic partner it was supposed to become when it was granted membership in the World Trade Organization.